Someone recently asked this question on social media: Do believers in Christ still face judgment? Many replied “yes,” but others were not as sure. If we’ve accepted Jesus as Saviour, aren’t our sins forgiven and not counted against us anymore, so what is left to judge?

Others indicated that judgement was favourable as a reward for good work. Is that true? Will some of us get fewer rewards in heaven than others? What does that even look like? I’ll do my best to answer these excellent questions in this blog.

Do Believers in Christ face Judgement?

The short answer is YES, but judgments may be separated, with the New Testament suggesting one for unbelievers and another for believers.

Consider 1 Peter 4, in which the apostle contrasts the lifestyle of “pagans” and Christians. I’m not too fond of the word the NIV uses here. “Pagan” is unwarranted and very “us and them” language. Everywhere else in Scripture, the Greek word (ethnos) is rendered “Gentiles” or “nations.” It refers to groups of people who are not Jewish. In context, Peter is writing about non-Jewish people who live in sensuality, especially in connection with idolatrous temple worship:

They are surprised you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. This is why the gospel was preached even to those now dead so that they might be judged according to human standards regarding the body but live according to God regarding the spirit. The end of all things is near. The last statement probably refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D., a few years away. If not, Peter is way off with his prediction!

Preaching to the Dead?

There is disagreement amongst theologians as to precisely what Peter means in 1 Peter 4:6, Which is why the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead. There are several ways this verse is understood:

  1. The gospel was preached to people when they were alive, but they have since died.
  2. The gospel was preached to people when they were dead.
  3. Peter refers to Christians who faced judgment by earthly courts (human standards) and were executed for their faith in Jesus. These persecuted believers would live according to God regarding the spirit.

Whatever the case, the outcome is positive. “They” live according to God regarding the spirit. For more, listen to my podcast, What Jesus Did in Hell.

God’s Judgment Seat

In Romans 14, Paul instructs the church not to judge others over “disputable matters.” The Greek word refers to a person deliberating with themselves, trying to determine right and wrong in matters of conscience. He then gives two examples: what people eat and when people worship. In Romans 14, Paul writes about our interrelatedness with one another and our reliance on the Lord. I encourage you to read and reflect on Romans 14:8-15.

We could summarise this chapter: Don’t judge each other because that’s God’s job, not yours. We belong to the Lord, and we will give an account of ourselves to God. And this is very important because Paul’s judgement is about accountability. Our salvation is not in question here. It is NOT a judgment of condemnation. It’s more like an evaluation of KPIs in which God interviews us about how we lived out the Royal Law, the Golden Rule, and what we’ve done with our resources, time, and talents.

Christ’s Judgment Seat

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul writes, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that we may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Judgement seat (Gk. Bema [bey-ma] = throne, rostrum, or tribunal).

The website says the Bema appears in classical Greek to identify the judge’s seat in the arena of the Olympic games. The Bema was the seat whereon the judge sat, not to punish contestants, but to present awards to the victors. When Christians stand before the Bema of Christ, it will be for the express purpose of being rewarded according to their works. There is no idea of inflicting punishment.

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul again refers to accountability. A person’s salvation is not in question. It’s not about condemnation, as the context reveals. Read and reflect on verses 1 to 10 of that chapter where Paul writes about our longing to be at home with the Lord. Paul is yearning to be in his new body with Jesus. He is not fearful of seeing God or in trepidation of judgement. He’s not concerned that he might die and not be good enough and be condemned to eternal hell.

There are no threats or coercion in these words. Christians are to rest on the salvation gained through Jesus’ completed work. But we should not use God’s grace as an excuse to lead a sloppy or sinful life. We will be accountable for how we conduct our lives, so we make it our goal to please him.

Whether Good or Bad

The believers’ judgement is not about dragging up sins that have been dealt with by the Cross. This judgment assesses our life’s work and actions. But there does appear to be some accountability for destructive things done: each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (worthless, wicked, evil and vile).

How do we balance God’s forgiveness of sin with someone who persists in debauched behaviour? For example, Jesus’ statement, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Consider the numerous cases of Christians who abuse children. There appears to be ultimate justice in Jesus’ words.

And what about a pastor who abuses a member of their congregation, a husband who beats his wife, or a parent who gambles money away instead of supporting their family? Consider Paul’s sobering words to Timothy, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8).

We need to weigh these things. Our sins are forgiven, and none of us is perfect, but the Scriptures point to ultimate justice for those who maltreat others.

We, humans, are fascinated by death and life beyond the grave. Before becoming a Christian, I frequently pondered these things and was riveted by discussions about reincarnation and communicating with the dead. One of the things that attracted me to the Christian faith was the assurance that this life is not all there is to life. So, let’s dive into some questions about heaven, resurrection, and immortality.

Do we go Straight to Heaven When we Die?

Christians differ on the answer to this question. Some believe as I do, that we go straight to heaven when we die. Others believe the Bible teaches Soul Sleep, that the righteous sleep until judgement day.

By heaven, I’m referring to the third heaven, which is God’s home and where Jesus is now. It is this third heaven that Paul said he visited either bodily or in a vision.

Jesus taught about the Kingdom of heaven, which is the impact of God’s nature on the earth. This is the emphasis of the New Testament and teachings of Jesus and is to be the focus of all followers of Jesus. In other words, our attention is on the here and now rather than the hereafter.

Searching the Scriptures

What does the Bible teach about going to heaven? Paul had much to say about this, particularly to the Corinthian church:

2 Cor 5:1, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Notice that he refers to the body as a tent. A tent is a temporary dwelling place rather than a permanent home. It’s a beautiful comparison.

2 Cor 5:6-8, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” You can also read Philippians 1:23 and 2 Tim 4:18 to gain more of Paul’s insights.

Peter wrote about heaven as our imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:4). The author of Hebrews spoke of the Old Testament saints longing for a better, heavenly country (11:16) in which to dwell.

Jesus spoke of a time when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. It appears that upon death, the soul of the faithful person goes to be with the Lord in his presence.

Soul Sleep

Some Christians believe that a person’s soul sleeps from death to the resurrection. Martin Luther believed this, as does Nicky Gumbel of Alpha Course fame. Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4 are used in defence: “we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of humanity, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (13-14).

I believe the sleep here is metaphorical, like Jesus spoke about Lazarus when he died, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

Proponents of soul sleep believe people’s souls are awoken for the resurrection at Christ’s return. But resurrection ALWAYS refers to the body, not the soul.

Consider Jesus’ interactions with the thief on the cross, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Supporters of soul sleep move a comma, “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.” There is no punctuation in the original manuscripts, so it is a matter of opinion.

I believe our spirit/soul goes straight to heaven when we die, but I understand why some Christians believe the soul sleeps until judgement day. Whatever the case, one thing is sure, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

When Does our Spirit Become Immortal?

Is the human spirit immortal, or is it made immortal when we’re born again or when we are resurrected? Once again, there are numerous views on this within the Christian church. In recent years I have come to lean more towards what is known as Christian mortalism, that the human soul is not inherently mortal and that one of the outcomes of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the gift of eternal life. In other words, people do not possess immortality. It is a gift from God.

Scripture says that [God] alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16; Cf. John 5:26). If he is the only immortal being that counts people out.

Consider God’s words in Genesis 3:22-23 after the man and woman had “become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and also take from the tree of life and eat and live forever.” So, the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden.” God acted kindly so that people would not live forever in poor conditions.

People do not live forever. The human soul is not immortal apart from an act of God by granting the gift of eternal life because “Our Saviour, Christ Jesus…has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10; Cf. Romans 6:23; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 2:7; Matthew 10:28).

We are given the gift of eternal life when we are born again. I am still determining whether our spirit becomes immortal at that point or when we are resurrected.

Next week, I’ll examine what the Bible says about the resurrection body.

Over my years in pastoral ministry, I have spoken to many people who have been unsettled by a verse or two from the Bible.  I mean, there are some pretty blunt warnings and, in some cases, quite frightening predictions.  Such is the case with Jesus’ statement in Matthew’s gospel:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you evildoers!’” [1]

Who are these evildoers to whom Jesus refers?  In answer, it’s always essential considering context.  “Take the text out of context, and you’re left with a con!” [2] In Matthew 7, Jesus is teaching on the importance of hearing and acting on, HIS message rather than a message taught by false prophets. Jesus says this is what it means to “enter through the narrow gate” (13-14).  False prophets are easy to pick, says Jesus, by observing the fruit of their lives and teachings – whether it’s good or bad (15-19). He concludes this section by telling The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders, which refers to two groups of people who all hear Jesus’ words and teachings.

Group one “hears these words of mine and puts them into practice,” while group two “hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice.”  Group one is “like a wise man who built his house on the rock” while group two “is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”  Both houses (groups) experience the same trials and storms in life, “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house.”  Group one’s house “did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  So is everyone who hears Jesus’ teachings and puts them into practice.  Group two’s house “fell with a great crash.”  So is everyone who hears Jesus’ teachings but does not act on them.

The Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John – record Jesus’ teachings; and the other New Testament writers expound on them to more fully explain how His teachings apply in everyday life.  One of the things these authors stress is this:

You don’t enter the kingdom of heaven by doing good works; you enter the kingdom of heaven by doing God’s will. 

That’s where the “Many” referred to by Jesus have made a grave mistake.  Their defense of why they should have access to the Kingdom of Heaven is the good works they have done.  They’ve prophesied, driven out demons and performed miracles, but these are displays of God’s power working through a person and not necessarily proof of true faith in Christ.  It is of them that the apostle Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” [3]

Entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven is, according to Jesus, for the person “who does the will of My Father in heaven.”  What is God’s will? Jesus taught, my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” [4] It is by faith in Jesus that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven!  It is by faith in Jesus that we hear his teachings and put them into practice.  Good deeds flow out of true faith, but good deeds do not guarantee access to the Kingdom.  The late Billy Graham put it this way, “There were a few times when I thought I was dying, and I saw my whole life come before me.  I didn’t say to the Lord, ‘I’m a preacher, and I’ve preached to many people.’ I said, ‘Oh Lord, I’m a sinner, and I still need Your forgiveness. I still need the cross.’ And I asked the Lord to give me peace in my heart, and He did – a wonderful peace that hasn’t left me.” [5]

A man died and went to heaven. Of course, St. Peter met him at the pearly gates and explained, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I’ll give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you’ll get in.”

“Okay,” said the man, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”  “That’s wonderful,” said St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”  “Terrific!” said St. Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point? Gosh. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”  “Fantastic, that’s good for two more points.”  “TWO POINTS!!” the man cried, “At this rate, the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

“Come on in!” Said Peter 🙂


[1] Matthew 7:21-23

[2] Anonymous

[3] 1 Cor. 13:1-3

[4] John 6:40

[5] Billy Graham, Cincinnati Crusade, June 24th, 2002

A belief in life after death is important for two reasons. Firstly, it gives meaning to this life, to our often-boring routine, to the predictability of life. Think about it: you’re born, you get an education, you work, you get married (maybe), you have children, then grandchildren, you retire, you die. Even a sceptic like Woody Allen admits, “It’s all meaningless if physical death is the final curtain.” A belief in life after death gives meaning to the personal development of our character and knowledge. The things we work on for a lifetime do not cease at death but we take them with us into the next life. It also gives meaning to our relationships. Not one of us wants to think when we attend the funeral of a loved one that that’s the last time we’ll see them.

Secondly, a belief in life after death brings hope into this life. It deals with the problem of injustice – what about those who seem to get away with gross wickedness in their lifetime? The Christian belief in an ultimate reckoning means that every injustice will be corrected – if not in this life then certainly in the one to come. It also deals with the problem of inequality. It seems so unfair that some people have such terrible lives, have more than their fair share of suffering, are born in places of extreme poverty or in a Caste from which they cannot escape. Life after death means that God has all of eternity to make up for the inequalities of this life (Luke 16:19-31). The Bible speaks of a life after death in which God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The Bible describes death as an enemy that Jesus defeated when He was resurrected. Many people fear death because of the unknown, so there’s nothing like being the friend of One who’s been there and come back! This is clearly illustrated by looking at the last words of some famous people:

Some are tragic: Elizabeth 1 who reigned for 45 years and cruelly persecuted Christians, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Confucius said, “No wise ruler comes, no prince invites me to be his counsellor; it is time to die.” Napoleon Bonaparte said, “What an abyss lies between my deep misery and the eternal kingdom of Christ.” The French philosopher Voltaire who said Christ was powerless and who boasted that within 100 years of his death the Bible would be obsolete. At his death in 1778 he was overpowered with remorse and signed a recantation of his philosophy with these words, “O Christ, O Lord Jesus. I must die abandoned of God and man. I wish I had never been born.” Incidentally, 100 years later Voltaire’s residence was being used by the Geneva Bible Society to print Bibles. T.H. Huxley, a friend of Charles Darwin who coined the term “agnostic,” on his death bed suddenly looked up at a sight invisible to mortal eyes, after staring a while he whispered, “So, it is true.” And Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana wrote, “My father died a difficult and terrible death. God grants an easy death only to the just. At what seemed the very last moment he opened his eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane, full of anger and fear. Then he lifted his left hand as though pointing to something above and bringing a curse down on us all. The gesture was full of malice. The next moment the spirit wrenched itself free of the flesh.”

Contrast this with the last words of people like Mother Teresa: “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.” Michelangelo (written in his will), “I commit my soul to God, my body to the earth, my possessions to my nearest relatives. I die in the faith of Jesus Christ and in the firm hope of a better life.” William Shakespeare in his last will and testament one month before death, “I commend my soul into the hands of God, my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing only through the merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting.” Sir Michael Faraday, the greatest experimental scientist of all time. As he laid dying journalists questioned him regarding his speculations of life after death. “Speculations, I know nothing of speculations. I am resting on certainties. I know that my Redeemer lives and because he lives I shall live also.” Martin Luther: “O my heavenly Father, my eternal and everlasting God. Thou hast revealed to me your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I have preached him, I have confessed him, I love him and worship him as my dearest Saviour and Redeemer. Into thy hand I commit my spirit.” Dietrich Bonheoffer, the German theologian hanged in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. On his way to the gallows he said, “This is the beginning of a new life, eternal life.” And the evangelist D.L. Moody: “Earth recedes and heaven opens before me. It is beautiful. It’s like a trance. There’s no valley here, and God is calling me and I must go. This is my triumph, this is my coronation day, it is glorious. I’ve been looking forward to it for years. No pain, no valley. If this is death it is not bad at all, it’s sweet.”

Finally, just in case this blog is too serious, let’s here some of the funny last words people have spoken: Roman Emperor, Gaius Caligula, who was stabbed by his own guards said, “I’m still alive!” Of course his guards made sure he wasn’t moments later! General John Sedgwick, who was killed in battle during US Civil War said, “They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist…” Author H. G. Wells, “Go away. I'm all right.” Writer Oscar Wilde, “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.” And my all time favourite is from Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa, “Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something!”

But in all seriousness, there is life after death. Jesus has experienced death for you – and defeated it – why not place your faith and trust securely in Him?

Ah, the eternal question – Is there a God or isn’t there? And, if there is, how do we know that he (or she or it or they) exists? Of course there are those who categorically say there is no God. We call them atheists (a = without; theos = god). In my teen years I called myself an atheist until I realised that to do so was to say that I knew everything. How did I know that God didn’t exist outside of my knowledge? Atheists, if they are honest with themselves, will realise this flaw in their logic and upgrade themselves to agnostics – those who are not sure if there is a God or not (a = without; gnosis = knowledge).

At the age of 19, through a number of dramatic incidences, I realised that I had been wrong. God did in fact exist – and that he was not just real but loving, caring and personal. Now, 32 years later – and a whole lot wiser – I am living my life to help others know this loving, caring, personal God. It is my hope that this blog will help you in this discovery. I believe there are four basic ways we can know that God exists:

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities … have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20).

The internet features a number of sites that instruct you on how to make a model of the Solar System. Imagine that you made such a model and then invited a friend around to watch it in action. Of course your friend would be amazed at this phenomenal working model of the real thing – planets rotating on an axis and all revolving around the sun. He may ask, “Who made this?”  You answer: “No one made it!”  Would he believe you? Of course not! Someone had to make it. How is it that we can look at the real thing and believe that it’s a random-chance accident with no designer or creator

“Since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.” (Romans 2:15)

Human beings are set apart from the animal and plant kingdoms in many ways – not least by the existence of the human conscience. We are not just aware of our existence but we are also very aware of what is right and what is wrong.  On the basis of this we have established an entire system of justice, reward and punishment.

“In these last days he (God) has spoken to us by his Son…”(Hebrews 1:2)
“Jesus answered: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”(John 14:9)

How easy it would have been for God to remain aloof and distant from His creation.  But God came to earth as a human being … Jesus! Jesus’ existence is a historical fact reported not just by the Bible but also by secular historians like Josephus. Jesus not only claimed that God existed but that He was in fact God in human form!

“We…are being transformed into his likeness.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) When I became a Christian at the age of 19 a radical transformation took place in my life – and that transformation process is still happening. Right now on planet earth there are billions of people who call themselves Christian.  Many of these people have experienced this same transformation.  No, we’re not perfect, but our lives have been changed for the better and, through us, this world is a better place.

God really exists.  He really loves you. Why not love Him back!

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